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tv   MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin  MSNBC  July 12, 2017 10:00am-11:00am PDT

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they believe that the principles they serve are so much larger than themselves. it's beautifully crafted, and as someone whose worked with and around the bureau before, 36,000 current employees of the bureau, is that right? >> i think it's about that. >> some really thoughtful, selfless public servants who do toil often at great financial costs compared to what they could earn in the private sector without a lot of recognition. obvio oftentimes in danger and at threats of life and limb and time away from home. and thank you for representing them in the way you talk about the mission and the culture of the bureau. obviously, there have been some dark times at the bureau in the past. we have spoken a little bit today about director hoover, and the ways that he mismanaged that agency, 45, 50 years ago. but also there was politicization of the bureau by white houses and administrations across both parties. the kennedy administration, the johnson administration, and the
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nixon administration all regularly tried to politicize and weaponize the fbi against civil rights activists and against lots of other people who weren't able to fight back against that big and overreaching state. and i think one of the reasons why you've heard so much support for the way you conceive of this mission and this calling today is because of the ways you've made clear how you think this calling and this oath obligate you to work for the constitution and in defense of the constitution on behalf of the american people. not on behalf of either political party. and as you've reiterated again and again, you're willingness to resign, if ever forced to politicize an investigation. and i think that's why you hear so much bipartisan support for your confirmation today. would you also pledge to this committee that if ever directed by the white house to shut down or curtail an investigation that you would report that back to this committee? not necessarily in a public setting, but at the very least
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in a classified setting. would you commit that any white house direction you would curtail or end an investigation you would report back to this committee and this senate? >> well, i would certainly report it wherever it is appropriate. i would need to make sure that i was compliant with all my legal obligations in doing so. but if i can appropriately do it, i would want to make sure that i could bring it to the appropriate committee's attention in the appropriate way. >> and i appreciate all of the complicated chain of command issues inside an agency like yours and main justice where the bureau reports in a little more at the dag level than at the ag level. i recognize that's complicated. but wouldn't you also agree with us that the senate's constitutional obligations to oversight mean that we are one of the destinations to which you should be reporting, not just the executive department's chain of command? >> well, i would certainly agree that this -- this committee and other committees with oversight responsibility over the fbi have an enormously critical role.
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it's part of our system. and i think it needs to be respected in all the appropriate ways. and i would make every effort within the chain of command that you referred to, senator, to urge that we be as forthcoming as we legally and appropriately can be, with all the right members of the senate. and the house. >> this is obviously a very politicized time in american life and a politicized time in the congress. but i'm filling in right now for a chairman, chuck grassley of iowa, who has lots of bipartisan respect around this place, because people know that when he does oversight, he's doing it as an article 1 branch of article 2 of the constitution. he's not doing it as a republican of an administration that he's either -- either is or isn't aligned with his own party affiliation. this is a constitutional operation of powers issue. so i think i can probably say on behalf of the chairman, there is a lot of robust support around
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here for making sure you recognize this is a committee that would like to hear those details when you were ever pushed to politicize. your predecessor, assuming your confirmation, famously referred to wikileaks as intelligence porn, as opposed to journalism. and he said that the bedrock of our democracy requires public trust and that wikileaks is regularly acting on behalf of other governments against the interests of the u.s. public. can you briefly explain for this committee and the american people how you believe that wikileaks came to be an outlet of foreign and specifically russian propaganda? >> senator, i don't have access to that information. so i don't know how that came to occur. i certainly share former director comey's concern about that. and i have no reason to doubt his description. but that's something that i would have to learn more about once i had access, once again, to classified information.
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but i'm -- wikileaks was not a thing when i was in government before. so my observations of it have been solely through, like any american, watching the news media in bits and pieces. >> i recognize that you've been in the private sector, so you're not up to speed on all of these issues yet. but is it your sense as you're arriving to lead a critical agency that is a part of the intelligence community, it's broadly law enforcement agency, but obviously has the national security division, and you have lots of other ic relationships. is it your view that we are currently adequately investing in the cyber challenges of our time? >> well, senator, i don't think i know enough to be able to make a really responsible evaluation of the resources. what i can tell you is that my sense is that as much as everybody is talking about the threats of the sort that you're describing, i have the sense that we are just scratching the surface of how grave the threats
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really are. or at least how grave the threats are about to be before we blink and wake up. now, that's really based on just what limited information i've -- conversations i've had with people. but my sense is that one of the biggest changes i've seen from being in law enforcement for a number of years and then being out and now starting to get reintroduced again, is whereas cyber was a discreet topic back in, say, 2005, that had a lot of attention, now in 2017, cyber in many ways permeates every aspect of national security of the intelligence community, of every type of criminal conduct we deal with. it's become part of the fabric, both of our security, but also of the threats to our security. and i -- it's hard for me to imagine that we're doing nearly
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enough and i think that we can always do better. >> when you are in the classified bunker getting briefings on these topics, i'm one of five people on the u.s. senate whose never been a politician before. so i've been here for about 30 months, and in my time interviewing people, it is fairly stunning how when you ask direct questions about not just our cyber operations and our implementation, but cyber doctrine. offensive and defensive doctrine. when you ask who is responsible for cyber doctrine, inside the executive branch, in the last administration and in the current administration, the main thing that happens is people start looking sideways and trying to figure out who else they can point to. how do you conceive of the fbi's responsibilities in the larger institutional framework of cyber responsibilities across the u.s. government? what is the fbi's role? >> well, i think the fbi probably has multiple roles. it has a criminal investigative
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role when there are ways in which the criminal investigative tools can be used to prevent, detect, disrupt threats. but then it also has an intelligence role, where it partners with our partners in the intelligence community and our overseas partners in trying to defend our systems and our infrastructure from attacks, which is a slightly different kind of role. and the two things work hand-in-hand. and i would think that there's an analogy that could be drawn to the terrorism arena in terms of awareness. i remember listening to a prominent counterterrorism expert in a room full of prosecutors from all around the world. and it was a very jovial meeting until this guy got up and spoke. and he said, there are two types of countries. there are those who have been
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hit by terrorist attack and get it. and there are those who have not yet. and then you could have heard a pin drop. because it certainly cut a lot of the joy out of the room. and i think there is a degree to which the cyber threats that we face, the same kind of statement could be made there. my strong suspicion is that there are countries that have been hit and have started to wake up. there are companies that have been hit and started to wake up. and then there are many who haven't realized that yet. key word "yet," because it's coming. >> assuming that you're confirmed, can you tell us a little bit about your first 90 days or first 100-day plan for how you will assess issues like our cyber capabilities and our cyber threats, and obviously in the counterterrorism space, a place that you've worked a lot more, trying to get back up to speed with where we may be underinvesting and how you risk,
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rank and prioritize among those, which are a rival plan? >> i think one of the first things i need to do is sit down with the senior management of the bureau and start getting briefed up on all of the areas that the fbi is responsible for. i would be largely following off of the priorities that the fbi has in its strategy, which prioritizes counterterrorism, counter espionage and cyber at the top. but since my guess is i'm probably furthest behind in some ways, just because of the advance in technology on the cyber front, i would want to prioritize in particular spending more time on some of those issues early on, just because my own learning curve, as is true of anybody who has been out of that part of it, with the breakneck pace in advance of technology would be impacted. so that would be -- those would be some of the things i would prioritize early on. >> thank you. i have a number of cyber questions that you and i started discussing in my office that i
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look forward to following up with you on and trying to support you on when you have this important new calling. i'm going to turn the gavel back to the chairman. but if senator flake is ready to go, we will turn the questioning over to him. thank you, mr. ray. >> thank you for being here, and thanks for the visit to my office, as well. enjoyed the discussion. just following up on some of that, i know these questions have been asked a lot of times already. but the obligatory, do you feel that you can exhibit independence as director of the fbi, as necessary for that position? >> senator, i am my own man and i will be governed by the constitution and the laws and the rules and to do things by the book strictly independently without fear or favor. and certainly without regard to partisan politics. that's the only way i think you can do this job. >> thank you. we discussed in my office some of the challenges coming up for
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the fbi. you mentioned technology and cyber, obviously. but with regard to technology, it seems that, you know, in this committee we -- we try to balance, obviously, security and privacy. as soon as we arrive at a solution, technology changes and we're at square one once again. can you talk about that process with the fbi and how you can work with this committee and the congress to ensure that we have the proper balance between privacy and security? >> well, certainly, as you say, senator, there needs to be a balance. and that's not just a privacy interest, but a -- a protection of infrastructure. but i do believe very strongly that technology, the private sector, is advancing at such a rapid pace, and government historically, state and local government, foreign governments,
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are historically not as nimble in change. and somehow we, as a country, have to figure out a way to get to be one step ahead of the bad guys and those who would do us harm. and the way they would use technology against us, as opposed to constantly chasing the last technological advance. and so i think it's got to be a high priority to work both with the congress, but also to reach out to industry and see if we can secure better cooperation in that effort. >> right. thank you. turning to an issue that's important to arizona as a border state, eliminating public corruption on the southern border has traditionally been a priority for the fbi and in the past the bureau has investigated public corruption and identified key trends in the type and frequency of these activities. do you agree that this remains an issue, especially for border states like arizona? >> senator, i strongly agree
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that public corruption is an important prooiority for the fb all throughout the country. my experience with public corruption investigations goes all the way back to my time as a line prosecutor, and some of the most meaningful cases that i worked on were public corruption cases. and then as assistant attorney general, of course, the public integrity section reported up to me. and that section played an incredibly important role. as to the fbi, my experience historically has been that some of the very, very best agents in the fbi gravitate to the public corruption squads. and that's because the skill level and sophistication of the very best fbi agents is, in my view, without parallel. and public corruption cases are an extremely difficult to pursue, and it requires some of the best and brightest agents. and it's watching a good public corruption fbi agent work a public corruption case is really a sight to behold. and it would inspire any
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american as it did me when i saw it. >> all right. thank you. as you may or may not know, all applicants for law enforcement positions at the u.s. customs and border protection are cbp are congressnally mandated to pass a polygraph test as a condition of employment. the problem that we're having is that cbp experiences significantly higher failure rates, around 65%, than any other federal law enforcement agency. these high failure rates have prevented cbp from hiring enough officers to adequately staff our ports of entry, for example. and i think it's problematic for cbp to be turning away qualified applicants with distinguished military and law enforcement service records, just because of a potentially flawed polygraph. what we're finding is, a lot of people are reluctant to submit themselves, because they've heard of false-positives out there, and fear that it might impact their ability to land
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another federal or state or local law enforcement job in the future. given the fbi's success administering its own polygraph, and i've asked this of mr. comey as well, will you commit to provide guidance or share best practices with cbp and dhs to better conduct their polygraph examination? >> well, senator, that's not an issue that i'm especially familiar with at this stage. but something i would look forward to learning more about and seeing how we at the bureau could be helpful to cbp in that regard. >> that would be helpful. the fbi, we understand, has a much better program there. and it is a significant problem on our border to hire just to deal with attrition, let alone hire the number of officers as border patrol agents or port officials that we need. now, over the past few years,
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we've witnessed several high-profile data breaches that federal government agencies, including omb data breaches, often caused by technological vulnerability or human vulnerability or both. i asked your predecessor about this, but i want to hear your thoughts, as well, given the amount of essentisensitive datay the fbi or doj generally, what steps will you take to ensure that its data is secure, both from technological weaknesses and by human hackers? >> well, senator, i -- at the moment, i don't know much about the fbi's security status in terms of its cyber security. but that's something i would need to focus on early on. i would want to get briefed by the right experts to understand not only what we've done, but what they see as the threats. and how they can be confident that they've correctly identified the threats. what kind of pressure testing
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and reality-checking they've done to make sure that our systems aren't more vulnerable than they might appreciate. >> all right. thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator hirono. >> i would like to defer to my colleague, senator blumenthal. >> thanks, senator hirono, for permitting me to go first. good afternoon, mr. ray. thank you for your willingness to serve and your family's. i want to ask you a couple of questions, and hope that you can give me answers that are as straight forward as you can, given the limitations of your position. in your view, is obstruction of justice a serious crime? >> absolutely. >> is your view that lying to the fbi is a serious crime? >> absolutely. >> and both should be investigated vigorously if there is evidence that they occurred? >> yes. >> to your knowledge, is there
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evidence that there has been perjury or obstruction of justice in connection with the investigation into russian interference in our elections 2016? >> i don't have knowledge to that effect, senator. but i think special counsel muller would have jurisdiction over that. >> and the reason that he's investigating is because there is sufficient evidence to warrant a special counsel, as i advocated, at the very beginning of rod rosen stein's appointment, and ultimately he agreed to do. so i view this investigation with the utmost seriousness, because it does involve obstruction of justice and perjury and potential defrauding the government of its lawful services. conspiracy to violate the computer fraud and abuse act and other violations of law. and you and i have talked about the need for the fbi to be as
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independent and immune from political interference as possible, because i foresee a firestorm brewing that will threaten the fbi. and i'm going to support you, because i do believe that you will provide the kind of independence and integrity that the fbi needs, based on your record and your experience and expertise. and i am trusting, as i think members of this body will trust you, to take that most solemn and historically significant obligation as seriously as you do the crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice. those kinds of crimes betray the rule of law, because they impede vigorous and independent investigation. and we will be counting on you to protect the fbi, which is an institution of such professional excellence and integrity that it
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is worth any person's career to defend. i hope you agree. >> i do agree, senator. >> if you foresee a threat to that independence and integrity that rises to the level of political interference, will you commit to taking appropriate action, which may include resigning from office? >> yes, senator. as we discussed when we met, one of the lessons i got from both former attorney general griffinbell and former deputy attorney general thompson, you cannot take on a position like this without resolving in advance that you have to be willing to quit or be fired at a moment's notice in order to stand up for what you think is right. and that would be my commitment, to stand firm to that maxim. >> and you also told me that you try to persuade whoever might be taking an inappropriate or
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illegal action, whether it's the president of the united states or anyone else, endeavor to persuade that official to change course. correct? >> that's correct, senator. my whole career, both public and private, has consisted of an awful lot of times telling people things they don't want to hear. and talking people out of bad ideas. >> in my view, the firing of your predecessor warrants investigation as a potential obstruction of justice. we have not yet proof beyond a reasonable doubt. we have nothing like it. and we're short of evidence necessary to charge anyone. but if that kind of crime has been committed, you would investigate it seriously and diligently, correct? >> well, certainly, as to the particular investigation that special counsel muller is
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conducting that investigation, i would view the fbi's role as providing whatever appropriate support is needed so that he can do a thorough investigation. if it were to occur in some other context, absolutely, the fbi, i think -- and i take obstruction of justice, perjury, false statements, offenses like that, definitely seriously, because they go to the integrity of the process. and as i said, i think in response to questions from some of your colleagues like senator klobuchar, that it's the integrity of the process is what gives the american people confidence that the outcome of the investigation is the right one. >> and you're a partner in that investigation, and i believe that you told me when we met privately that you would provide whatever resources are needed by bob muller to do that investigation. >> i would invite all appropriate resources. my experience with director mueller, when we worked together before, was always terrific.
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and i feel confident that he would be professional and only make appropriate requests. >> will you commit to report to this committee any attempts to deny him and that investigation resources or other support that are needed by others in the administration? >> senator, if there was an inappropriate request to deny him appropriate resources, i would try to evaluate the circumstances and take all appropriate action. >> will you be making records of your conversations as jim comey did? as you recall, director comey contemporaneously made memoranda to reflect his conversations with the president and others. would you do the same? >> i think it would depend on the situation, senator. i can commit that i would be
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listening very intently to any conversation i had with anybody of consequence. to me, that's the most important thing. if a conversation that i had suggested to me that i ought to create some record, i wouldn't hesitate to do it, and i've done that before at various stages of my private practice, for example. but i would evaluate each situation on its own merit and circumstances. >> a conversation with the president of the united states probably would be a significant conversation, correct? >> well, it depends on what the conversation would be about. i mean, i think if the president said -- how is your family -- i'm not sure i would create a record of something like that. >> correct. but if he said, "i want a pledge of loyalty from you, christopher wray," that would be significant. >> i would consider that significant. as i said to some of your colleagues, i was not asked to take any kind of loyalty oath, and i would have refused to take any kind of loyalty oath. >> and i heard your testimony about that in the past.
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and i respect and believe that you're being truthful in that regard. but going into the future, i take it that if he asks for pledge of loyalty or asks you to shut down an investigation or lightly on someone, that would be a conversation worth reporting, and in fact, reporting to this committee, i would hope. >> i would -- a conversation like that is something i would take very seriously and want to make sure that all of the right people knew. >> let me ask one last question on this line. you've been asked about the e-mails from donald trump jr. that have been in public light recently. in your view, as a former prosecutor, could those e-mails, under some circumstances, be evidence of criminal intent? >> senator, as i think i might have said to one of your colleagues, i actually haven't read the e-mails. i haven't even had a chance to read any of the newspaper coverage about the e-mails, because it's all happened while
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i was going up and down from one senate building to another, meeting with all of your colleagues. so i'm really not up to speed on it, so i can't responsibly answer that question. >> let me switch to a different topic. you've mentioned the scourge of gun violence in this country. would you support common sense measures to stop gun violence? as you know, i have championed a number of them, along with others on this committee, and in the senate. including universal background checks. would you support that kind of measure? >> well, i would want to take a look at any specific legislative proposal. and get back to you once i had evaluated any specific piece of legislation. but i do support efforts to deal with gun violence aggressively and effectively. and i think my record both as a line prosecutor and in the leadership of the department is consistent with that. >> in principle, you would support such measures. you would want to see the details. but, for example, on universal
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background checks, you would not rule out supporting a measure. >> i wouldn't rule out any common sense gun reformulation without having a chance to review it. i would have to review it and make an assessment based on the circumstances. but i can commit to you that being tough on gun violence is something that i would want to be, as director of the fbi. >> and one last question. between 1977 and 2015, there have been hundreds of crimes committed against reproductive health care facilities, clinics and other offices. abortion providers, reproductive health care centers, including 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 185 arsons and so forth. in 1998, attorney general janet reno created the national task force on violence against reproductive health providers.
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to coordinate investigation and prosecution of such incidents. as fbi director, i hope you will continue to support the fbi's participation in that effort. >> well, senator, i gather there's a specific statute that's in place that the fbi has investigative jurisdiction to enforce. and we would zealously investigate all criminal violations, including the ones under that statute. >> there are criminal statutes, and i appreciate your commitment. thank you. thank you, senator blumenthal. senator hirono. finally. >> i feel like you've saved the best for last or something like that. thank you very much for your patience and it's good to see you again. >> thank you. >> i certainly strongly support ranking member feinstein's efforts to work with chairman grassley to assert the jurisdiction over the investigation to russia's interference with our election. in light of recurrent news, it is even more important that we
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hear from attorney general sessions and others to get a public accounting. this committee has an important role to play, as i think you have acknowledged, to ensure that law enforcement investigations are done independently and free from political influence. so clearly, there's been a lot of emphasis and concern on the part of this committee on the reason as to why this occurred. the independents of the fbi and you, should you be confirmed, of any political influences. so i do want to return to some questions about russia's interference with our elections and the continuing position of the president to take seriously the damage to our country or even accept the conclusions over intel communities. and you have testified that you accept the conclusions of our intel community that russia did attempt to interfere with our elections. >> as i said, senator. i have only been able to review the public summary.
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but i have no reason to doubt the conclusions of the intelligence community. >> probably the nonpublic portions would be even more confirming of the public information as to russia's attempts to interfere with our elections. so there's also been testimony, not only by former director comey, but others in the intel community, that we can expect russia to continue to interfere with our elections. so should you be confirmed, what would you do to prevent this kind of interference? >> well, i would want to get briefed by the appropriate professionals, both at the fbi and in other parts of the intelligence community on what we know about how any nation state, whether it's russia or any other, is attempting to or has attempted to interfere. what are we doing to detect it? how can we be confident that we're taking all of the right steps? are there sources of information that we're not getting that we
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need to get access to? so i would need to get briefed up on all of those efforts. >> in my meeting with you, you made it very clear that any foreign country's attempts to interfere, particular one that is an adversary to us, an foreign countries' attempts to interfere with our election is an attack. a very basic premise of our country, our democracy. so you would take this kind of conclusion that russia will continue to interfere as very serious, and that it would be a priority. >> very serious indeed, senator. >> okay. there were a number of one-on-one conversations that i would characterize as improper or questionable that fbi director comey had with president trump. and you've testified to the concerns that you would have. and you said a number of times that should that kind of circumstance occur between you
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and president trump, that you would go to deputy attorney general rosenstein, not to the attorney general sessions. you've said that a number of times during your testimony today. why would you not go to senator -- i mean, to ag sessions? >> well, i wouldn't -- unless there was something that the attorney general was recused from, i wouldn't rule out talking to the attorney general, as well. but the department's organizational chart, the fbi reports to the deputy attorney general. number one. and number two, contacts -- the policy that the department has that governs contacts between the white house and the justice department is -- directs that those kinds of contacts should occur through the office of the deputy attorney general. so that strikes me as the appropriate place to start in those conversations. >> and, of course, in this instance, attorney general sessions has recused himself from pretty much anything relating to the russia investigations.
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correct? >> that's my understanding. but i'm not familiar with the full scope of the recusal. >> and yet, on the other hand, when deputy attorney general rosenstein sent his memo regarding director comey, there was a letter attached from jeff sessions that recommended to the president that comey be fired. would you consider that appropriate for someone who recused himself from these matters? >> senator, i don't know all the circumstances surrounding director comey's firing, and i know that special counsel muehler is, i believe, investigating that. so probably not responsible for me to speculate. i will say that the attorney general of the united states has authority over the justice department, which it covers much more than any single investigation. and clearly, the attorney general needs to be able to make decisions that affect the whole
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institution. obviously, if he's recused, he can't participate in a particular investigation. >> well, i would say that the firing of director comey was part and parcel, as it turns out, of the elections. and that was a circumstance that attorney general sessions was supposed to recuse himself from. now, the attorney general does get briefings on fbi investigations. ongoing fbi investigations. is that correct? >> that's historically been the case. >> so in a case where the attorney general has recused himself, should he be getting briefings on mr. muehler's investigations? >> if i understand your question correctly, senator, anyone who has recused himself from an investigation, whether it's attorney general or anyone else, shouldn't be getting briefed on that investigation. >> yes. >> that specific investigation. >> yes. so the answer would be no, that i should not be getting
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briefings on the muehler investigations. >> and i have no reason to believe that he is. >> okay. i think when you were first asked whether you had met with president trump regarding your nomination, and you said no. but then later you said that you were first contacted about this nomination from -- with deputy director rosenstein, and then you had a subsequent meeting with jeff sessions and rosenstein and then another meeting at the white house where the president attended. so when you had your initial meeting with deputy ag rosenstein, did the subject of the -- of comey's firing -- did the subject of the muehler investigation come up? did you go in with any kind of a seeking of reassurances that should you take this position you would be free to do your job free from political pressure? >> i did go into my meeting with deputy attorney general
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rosenstein and sessions. i met with them together. with a number of questions in my mind about wanting to be sure that i knew what i was getting myself into. and was very comfortable with what i heard. >> what was it that you heard? >> sorry. there was not a discussion of comey's firing or of the russian investigation, other than deputy attorney general rosenstein making a comment to the effect that now that special counsel muehler has been appointed, that situation is more straight forward, because there is an investigation going, and special counsel muehler has that. so from my perspective, the landscape that i was coming into at that point was different than it would have been without special counsel muehler having been appointed. >> so did you come to a conclusion that you would not probably be having one-on-one
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discussions about the russian experience with the president as had occurred with director comey, because you had muehler there conducting an investigation. >> yes. >> so you were assured or reassured that you would be able to do your job. >> i was very comfortable i would be able to do my job after that meeting, yes. >> at that time that you had a meeting with jeff sessions and deputy director rosenstein, did you indicate to them that should you get the job that you would very much support the muehler investigation? >> i did not discuss the russia investigation with them. as i said, other than deputy attorney general rosenstein making the comment that that was now in place. which would make it easier for me to do my job. that was the sum total of that. what i did say to them is, i would approach -- much as i have said to this committee, the way
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i would approach this job is with independence, straight and by the book. >> so considering that the president was very focused on the russian investigation, and basically i think his position is that he hoped that it would go away, when you met with -- with the people at the white house, and i'm not sure exactly who was there, but the president was there, did the -- the question of the muehler investigation come up or the russian investigation come up at all? >> no, not at all, senator. >> did you think that was odd? was it just a, hello, good to see you kind of a meeting that you had at the white house? >> i mean, it was -- i would describe it as a pleasant conversation. i did not think it was odd that the president, nor anybody else, didn't raise with me the conduct of a special investigation. because i -- would not have expected them to do that. >> i know that i'm running out of time, so i would want to get into a second round. so thank you very much. >> people do want a second round. and, in fact, i'm going to start the second round right now.
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i think we have at least one republican that hasn't had the first round. >> oh. so thank you, mr. chairman. >> you will have another opportunity. >> thank you. >> i want to ask you about section 702, provides government the authority to collect electronic communications of foreigners located outside of the united states with the assistance of the american electronic communications services providers. it's an authority used only for counterterrorism, but counter intelligence purposes, as well. this is an authority that the privacy and civil liberties oversight board, and i won't finish this paragraph, but a lot of people say it's very essential. so i go to you, as fbi director to be, one of your key responsibilities will be overseeing investigations of threats to national security. your predecessor repeatedly affirmed his support for the value of 702 as a national security tool.
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so just in a very general way, could you tell us whether reauthorization of section 702 will remain important to the fbi under your leadership, and also whether the fbi under your leadership will make sure that it uses this national security authority with proper training, oversight, to comply with the law and protect the fourth amendment rights? >> well, senator, it's been a number of years since i had anything to do with fisa, although i did deal with that a certain amount when i was in government before. and, of course, section 702 was passed after i had left government. but from everything i understand, from the public comments of people in the intelligence community, 702 is a vital tool, and one that we need to put high priority, and that i would expect to place a high priority on seeking reauthorization on. my understanding as to the second part of your question is that there are a number of
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oversight mechanisms built into the statutory framework, both in the executive branch, multiple levels of oversight, in the legislative branch, and the court, the fisa court itself. and i think that's appropriate, and i would look for ways to ensure that the tool was used appropriately. >> okay. i want to talk about leaks. the fbi has often failed to answer this committee's questions, but then the same information gets leaked to the media, or produced in the freedom of information act. is it appropriate for the fbi to ignore requests from this committee and provide the same information to the media in a third-party litigation? if not, what will you do to ensure that this committee's request will receive -- and i asked the same question of comey at oversight hearings, his last oversight here a couple weeks before he left the directorship. and i said, "how do you justify citizen grassley using foya
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information, getting more information than senator grassley can get?" and he says, "i can't tell you why." and i said, "ye gods." a senator can't get as much information as a private citizen gets? and often the letters that we send for information, we read about foya getting it, and we read about in the newspaper before we get an answer to our letters. >> well, senator, as we discussed in our meeting in your office, i think it's obviously important for the fbi, working with the department's help and approval, to be as responsive as possible to this committee and especially, of course, to its chairman. i'm not familiar with the particular circumstances surrounding foya productions of any of these materials. i agree with you that that strikes me, just listening to you describe it, as an odd situation, to put it mildly.
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>> yeah. i don't expect you to respond to this next question with anything about mr. mccabe. but i use mr. mccabe as an example. as i noted in my opening statement, the department refused to provide an unredacted copy of mr. mccabe's recusal memo. and the deputy attorney general has failed to explain to this committee what he's doing to deal with the conflict of interest. in a general matter, do you think it is appropriate for any fbi official to participate in a criminal investigation of someone who is an adverse witness in a pending eeo proceeding, and if not, what would you do if confirmed to assure that that does not happen on your watch? >> well, senator, mr. chairman, obviously, i want to make sure that i understand the facts appropriately. i think that one of the first things i would do upon being confirmed is to try to take stock of the situation with the senior leadership and try to understand better the
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circumstances. there is, of course, inspector general investigation into acting director mccabe's conduct. and i know, mr. chairman, your own strong support for the inspector general function is well, well-known. and i obviously would want to respect that, not comment here out of school. >> okay. i'm going to put some letters in the record again in support for you from various law enforcement organizations. and they support your appointment. and it's law enforcement community at large support it strongly. fbi agents association, atlantic division. society of former special agents of fbi. national fraternal order of police. the national association of police organization. international association of chiefs of police. major county sheriffs of america. the association of straight
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criminal investigative agencies and the national narcotic officers association coalition. and the national fusion center association, all be entered into the record. without objection, they will be. senator klobuchar. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. thank you. looks like we're nearing an end here. but i did want to mention not just the letter of support that senator grassley just mentioned, but also the earlier one had former u.s. attorneys and from all over the country supporting you. i thought that was very impressive, and included our former republican-appointed u.s. attorney in minnesota, as well as our recent democratic-appointed attorney in minnesota. so i want to commend you for that. just a few followup questions. the first is opioids. i don't know that that has come up. and it's an epidemic, would be a mild way of phrasing what's going on. in my state, we've lost everyone
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from superstar like prince to swimming star from her high school swimming team. we've actually had more people die from opioid overdoses in minnesota than we have from homicide. or than we have from car crashes. and you and i talked earlier about the bills that i have to make it easier to go after some of the synthetic drugs from a law enforcement standpoint and then also, of course, the work that we have done, senator whitehouse, portman and others and myself have done in leading the bill to set a national framework. but now it's time to implement it. it's everything from treatment to better sharing the data across state lines so that we can monitor prescriptions and share that data. and i just wondered from an fbi perspective if you could give any views you have on this epidemic. >> well, senator, i strongly agree that it's a major, major problem that's not only sweeping this country, but seems to be
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getting worse all the time in a lot of states. and it sounds like including in minnesota. i think that an awful lot of the effort in this area from a federal law enforcement perspective would probably come from the drug enforcement administration. but i do think the fbi should look for ways to partner with other federal agencies and state and local law enforcement to figure out how it can contribute what it can uniquely contribute to a multidisciplinary assault on the problem. >> as you know, sex trafficking and human trafficking as a whole has been very important to me. senator cornell and i passed the bill that sets out federal effort. and both of the former attorney generals, as well as deputy attorney general yates, who has actually worked on these cases, i know, in atlanta, have been involved in this. and the fbi has been an
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important part of the efforts to end trafficking with the innocence lost national initiative that began in '03. one part of this program, operation cross-country, which focuses on underage victims, was successful in rescuing 82 children, and arresting 239 traffickers during its last cycle, ending last october. i understand this has been an important issue for you, and you've done some pro bono work to help trafficking victims. can you tell us more about your work, and how you intend to carry this out, if you come into the directorship? >> thank you, senator. as we discussed, this is an issue that you and i both feel very passionately about. when i was in the criminal division, one of the things that we did towards the end of my tenure was recognizing the increase in human trafficking, and the multidisciplinary -- again, i use that word -- nature of the problem.
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we're bringing together both sort of the child exploitation side of it. there is an immigration side of it, an alien smuggling side of it. there is an organized gang activity side of organized gang of it. in response to questions you asked earlier, there is a financial side of it. so i think it needs to be a coordinated effort. it is incredibly vulnerable, with enormous leverage by the bad guys. one of the pro bono things i'm most proud of, and i'm excited to hear them take to the next level, is an effort on helping human trafficking victims that don't get any serious help in our system. i was kpieed to see them get
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fired up to see how they can be helpful. it is a different kind of pro bono work, and i think it is a wonderful thing. >> senator klobuchar will shut down the meeting unless someone on my side comes. i'm going to go do a news conference, a general one, that i do every wednesday at 2:00, so i want to congratulate you, and as i said originally, i think i said, we expect to move this along and get this position filled very quickly. i think your testimony today helps us do that and i want to compliment your family and friends for being here with you. and thank you to senator klobuchar. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. regarding your nomination, can you tell us who else was there
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from the administration? >> i had two meetings, the first was the president, the vice president, the white house council, and a couple people from the justice department. the second meeting was the president, the president's chief of staff, the white house council and again some people from the adopt. >> when was the first meeting? >> it was the day after memorial day. it was publicly reported as i understand. >> and neither one of the meetings did the issue of the russia investigation came up? >> correct. >> what did the president say to you in the first meeting and the second meeting? >> both meetings, senator, were very conversational about my
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bio, my background. i would describe it more as a "get to know you" kind of conversation. >> and knowing how strongly you believe that the fbi should be free to investigate, free from a political influence, et cetera, did you commit to that at either up with of these meetings to anyone at the meetings? >> in the white house meetings? >> yes. >> i may have at some point repeated the line that i told you a few minutes ago about my commitment to playing it straight. that is my approach. i would say senator that i went
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into both meetings listening very carefully to make sure i didn't hear something that would make me uncomfortable. getting a high level of confidence in who i have known since 2001. i was then focused more in the white house eatings on making sure that i didn't hear something that i would consider problematic. i can assure you i would not britney brittany sitting here today providing testimony for my nomination. >> i was not asked to take any kind of oath. >> but that is something you would have been highly sensitive for. >> correct, that did not happen.
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we have an administration that has talked about a muslim registry, various, you talked about surveying mosques, creating a muslim registry, would you go along with such a chemo. >> i don't know enough about the proposals or plans that anyone is talking about. i would say my commitment on these issues is the same as it would be for anyone else. faithful to the best practices of the fbi and the department. as i said i think in response to senator durbin, my experience with terrorism matters is that we need the cooperation of the muds limb american community.
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a lot of the leads and the investigations that law enforcement has obtained has been from those people. >> so any kind of a program that would kingle out a individual baited on their religion would raise some concerns for you. you would ask some serious, questions, right? are those areas that has fb ie director you will be particularly sensitive about moving forward on programs that will treat different groups in a diskrim story way -- discriminatory way? >> i would not want to contribute to anything that was discriminating. as i mentioned on the issue of
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religious freedom, something always very important to me. one of the cases that was one of my more meaningful cases was a case where churches were being burned down because of hostility to a particular religion. i know, if you don't mind, your firm has represented various individuals who have interests to the russian energy interests, i will ask about if there are any investigations that would involve clients of what would be a former law firm, how you would handest those situations, and also some questions about hate
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crimes. there is a rise in hate crimes and what the fbi can and should do to counter hate crimes. >> senator durbin will be joining us, so we will be involved in a little phil bfili. this question i asked you quickly about the shell companies, and the use of shell companies. i just want to explain it and you answered it fine. the treasurely department noted a significant rise in the use of shell companies. foreign buyers use them as a way to hide their identity and safely conceal money. i used it in the context of russia. and i raised this with director comey, just your experience with white collar cases, does the
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anonymity associated with the use of shell companies hurt the fbis ability to trace money and fight crime? >> certainly those kinds of m . maneuvers are unfortunately an all too common way that criminals and others troo to y circumvent detection. so i think we would need to work with our partners to follow the money. sometimes that is easier said than done, but that is a critical step to trying to prevent and disrupt, and not just detect after the fact, criminal conduct. >> thank you very much. i know this has been a long or deal f
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deal for you. let me try to ask two or three questions, nailing down the torture memo issue. i want to follow up on what you said earlier. you said in your time in the deputy attorney general's office, you don't recall referring to or commenting on any memo written. and you say you provided general information and legal support regarding the legal standards for interrogation. i want to g you abo-- ask you ae specific memo written by daniel levin. and it says the criminal division and the department of justice reviewed this memorandum